I’m often asked what does success mean to me personally?
Simply, it’s three things;
HEALTH – having all my faculties and being conscious about the choices I make today and how they impact on my long-term wellbeing.
WISDOM – living in the present, learning from the past and shaping the future – living life with deliberate intent.
WEALTH – appreciating all the simple pleasures that life has to offer and not being needy of the material things. Having a wonderful family who are the focus and anchor of what I do and why I do it; giving them the most important gift of all; time and presence. It means remaining true to my values and beliefs, remaining grounded and never losing sight of the priorities and what’s’ truly important in life.
Having given that answer I’m then frequently asked: But where does reward or recognition or life’s luxuries come in?
One word; Boomerang.
You see, one of my guiding principles, which shape what I do and how I do it, is boomerang.
If you focus on helping others and making a positive difference first (throw the boomerang far and wide) then all the rewards and trappings of success will follow.
Winning awards or being named #1 best-selling author or driving nice cars are amazing achievements but they don’t drive me. They are the outcome, the bi-product, the result of what drives me which is every day showing up, being the best version of ME that I can be and doing my best work in helping people grow their businesses and unlock their real potential.
So let me share with you my backstory and how I found my personal driving forces…
School was not really for me – I always felt like the odd one out – I was never the centre of the group. I often felt boxed and restrained. Day after day, week after week the same routine, same time, same classrooms. It felt stifling.
I attended an academic school, I was really sporty, not a great combination. I excelled in an area (sport), which was perceived as not that important. In my first year I failed all my exams – and I mean tanked big time. 27% in maths, 33% in English. To remain in the school, I had to go back and do year 1 again which meant I was a year behind all my classmates. My teachers openly shared their thoughts that I was ‘not intelligent enough’.
On reflection my school days probably gave me my greatest motivations, drivers and were the defining periods of my life, shaping who I am today. It got me to lock in my core, get my head down and prove them all wrong – I grafted and got really focused. I became wired to succeed in the things which people told me I couldn’t succeed in, and it taught me that the past does not equal the future unless you choose to live there.
After school, I was just itching to get into the world of work. I decided on a construction apprenticeship which included block release training at Bircham Newton Training College in Norfolk. The programme was a rotational programme with 6 months in each discipline; planning, surveying, site agent, engineer, general foreman. Each site you worked on was like a mini business and even in those early formative career years I was exposed to all the facets and disciplines needed to deliver a project on time, in budget and to the desired quality.
During this period, I learnt the whole concept of success modelling (as I call it now). A Site Agent took me under his wings and said as I move around the different disciplines interview the 3 top planners about what it takes to be successful as a planner. Do the same with quantity surveying etc. This shaped my whole thinking on trial & error versus success modelling and I still use this technique today.
My construction days provided another key life lesson – be visionary. Standing on a green field site in Bolton in the North West of the UK about to build the new General Hospital Emergency Unit and you have an architect’s impression drawing of the finished building and a project plan of what you need to do over the 2 year programme doesn’t half focus the mind on the key principle of start with the end in mind. Don’t think of your goals…think FROM your goals!
Construction gave me the discipline, the understanding of all the broad facets in running a project/business, the importance of the team and working as one, vision/purpose. Every project was like being part of the Leadership team running our own mini business. You had to be rounded, roll up your sleeves and get in the trenches and make stuff happen – you really honed the skill of being action orientated.
I was 19, maybe 20 and at this stage I had no life plan. I was no Lewis Hamilton who knew he always wanted to be a racing driver – I was just finding my way into the world of work and making it up as I was going along.
I took the opportunity to move from Higgs & Hill (where I started by apprenticeship) to Balfour Beatty. One of my early projects was the Liverpool Performing Arts – Paul McCartney School. A very high profile prestigious project and immediately off the back of this project I got a call from my Regional Director saying he wanted me to go to America for 6 months. When did I need to go? The following Monday morning, this was Thursday. When did I need to make a decision by? The end of the day. Naturally I said yes!
This was one of those life changing, defining moments. It completely pushed me out of my comfort zone. I was away for 18 months and during that time my outlook on life broadened and basically it made me grow up.
Following my return to the UK from the US I worked for various companies honing my business skills along the way. I started to understand the importance of culture – good and bad and could visibly see the impact leaders had on a business, again good and bad! I honed by commercial skills and could start to see what makes some businesses succeed and others not.
It was during this time when I saw the opportunity to transition into the entrepreneurial world and where my desire for starting my own business was strong. In my role before I made the leap into the unknown, I signed off a piece of business consultancy from one of the big four consulting companies costing £105,000. It was one of those moments when I thought; what have I got for my money? I could do that.
My first foray into the world of owning my own business was a bit of a half-way house if I’m honest. I became a third owner in a training business with two other individuals who had owned a small training company previously. It was great exposure and real grounding into running a business but also a steep learning curve.
I remember my first ever speaking event – a breakfast session for a recruitment company – it was a disaster. I was terrible. They complained saying how bad it was and quite rightly we never received the agreed fee for it.
I buried myself into all the facets of running a business;
The importance of Revenue – Profit – Cash. If I didn’t sell I didn’t get paid – period!
Hiring people and the impact the right people can have on moving your business forward and likewise, how the wrong people can put you back 5 steps.
What I was good at and not good at and what I enjoyed.
I became obsessed with understanding the formula, the component parts for growing businesses and in parallel with this…
I developed a healthy obsession with understanding how people are wired, what makes them tick and how you move them to action and lasting behavioral change.
Whilst this ‘on the job’ development taught me so much it cost us a fortune in hard cash, missed opportunity and extended our timeline for growing. We did not stop, reflect and adjust our strategy. We got caught in the ‘doing doing doing’ and became quite successful imitating a hamster on a hamster wheel going around and around and around.
This was a defining time which developed my key skills and more importantly started to flush out those lessons which have stuck with me today.
A point came when all three business owners (me being one) started to clash on the direction of travel for the business and what we personally wanted to achieve. Ultimately, we all had a different vision for the business so we agreed to split.
The timing of our split was great as I wanted my own ‘baby’ (business) which I could run as I saw fit. I wanted to take the learns from all my diverse experiences and succeed or fall through my own choices and decision-making. This was my time to build my vision.
The start up phase was slightly less stress full as I had bought across some clients meaning client acquisition wasn’t a standing start. Albeit I still had to ‘sell’ the idea why joining me and my new company was the right decision for them. In addition, my focus on all the usual start up activities remained; registering the business, new offices, new website, defining the offer, stationary etc.
This is when I really defined our brand as growing businesses…unlocking people potential and the purpose which drove the business and the subsequent vision; ‘Changing the way businesses and individuals think, feel and act!’
I was passionate about us being living proof and the best case study of everything we were coaching, training and advising our clients to do.
At the same time I was transitioning to my own business, I was having key conversations with one of the big UK banks about a couple of training programmes. Following a formal tender process, we won their contract, which really launched the whole business with a big bang! It was just great timing!
We did have the pains of an early stage business; no systems and processes, working 24/7, spinning all the plates, busy but not necessarily productive, the list goes on.
Plus, I quickly realized I had concentration risk both in me but also in in my client portfolio. The UK bank contract was great but all our time and effort was going into managing and delivering on this. And because of the success of this contract we won other clients from the financial services industry which made us too reliant on this one industry – financial services. Luckily, I spotted this before the 2008 world financial crash!
After about 12 to 18 months in business I knew we needed to diversify not only the number of clients, but also the sectors and industries. I also recognized I needed to start building a more stable platform for growth; looking beyond 12mths, putting in place processes and systems, recruiting and expanding the team.
This was about a putting in place a number of core building blocks, which I now call the growth enablers;
Widening our client base in terms of size of clients, number of clients, and diversification of industry sectors
Putting in place robust processes and systems so we could start to identify what was working, what wasn’t and fix it quickly
Hiring and embedding in new people
With more people came the need to focus more on the high performing team – defining what we were about into a compelling story; vision/purpose, values, strategy and culture
Thinking more broadly about our proposition; price, marketing, positioning
We were still trying to be everything to everyone. If clients said “do you do X” my response would be yes even if we didn’t. I would then figure out how we deliver it. Classic adolescent behavior and it did cause us problems; our offer became too bespoke, it stretched our capability which of course resulted in customer complaints.
Plus, I was carrying a huge concentration risk in me as the Leader which I was aware of daily.
Having said all of that we had a great start and within 3 years we were a million pound plus business. It was at this time I decided to sell the business.
As a young boy, I had seen the painful experience my dad went through when he decided to keep hold of his £3m+ business when all the advice was to exit and sell. Unfortunately for him the advice was right and for one reason and other, he lost everything. So, whether it was that experience or whether the time was just right, I sold it for a 7 figure sum and set up a new business with an even bigger vision.
In essence I went back to start up phase, I was setting up a new business again. Albeit by now I had started to hone the formula for building and growing a business and I wanted to put this into practice. Everything I had learnt up to this point; the good, the bad and the ugly I was either putting it in place in day 1 or avoiding it like the plague. All my previous mistakes I certainly wasn’t going to make again and all my great wins I was laying the foundations for them to happen again.
And honestly as a result, we busted through Infancy and Adolescence as I had a model to adopt. A pathway to follow. This was no longer about me thinking what I should do next? This was about me following a strategic plan which I knew bought results. I just had to trust the process.
Don’t get me wrong. It was hard work but it was manageable and enjoyable.
It was strategic. The building blocks were in place which gave the business the foundations to grow. We had put in place;
A clear business vision and purpose – both internally and externally
The components of a high performing organisation; vision, values, strategy, execution and culture – a huge percentage of the team understanding and buying in to it
A granular understanding of our market potential, size and opportunity
Robust systems, processes and performance measures identified – not always disciplined in living and executing against them – but in place!
A defined value proposition – more conscious of what we do well and what we don’t – albeit still would say our proposition is broad – I am getting it tighter!
A broader people strategy including the areas the team want and need; health insurance, car allowance, pensions, career development, work-life balance.
Being really tight on finance and governance and ops.
Understanding what we are good at internally and what we need to outsource. For example, we have external accountants to complete our monthly figures / accounts and an in house financial controller to manage our cash-flow and reports. Similarly, we outsource all complex HR matters to HR specialists who are supported by our internal Head of People.
We have a robust 3-year strategic plan.
Pti Worldwide has evolved to become our success story. One which I, and the team of people around me who make it so great, are extremely proud of.
Those who know The Business Growth Pathway and the 5 stages of business growth will understand the fifth stage as Maturity. For Pti Worldwide we are not there yet – we are firmly in The Groove and loving every minute of it.
For me, I want to help every business owner, leader and entrepreneur build and grow the business they deserve. And there are a lot of business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs so you may say on this journey I am just starting out!
The boomerang is being thrown far and wide, hoping to reach as many people as possible.
You see, I know you can create and navigate a pathway to building and managing a great business focused on;
Being Productive not busy
Feeling in control not out of control
Feeling connected not isolated
Building a business and life, you deserve.
I also know success is not an accident.
Which is why my passion and mission drives me every single day – to help people like you; business owners, leaders, entrepreneurs; grow your business and unlock your potential – because there is a better way. And I want to help you find it.
I’ve spent the past two decades coaching and mentoring business owners, leaders and entrepreneurs to grow their businesses and unlock their potential so I’m proud to say my team and I know what it takes to build a great business with great people.
I’ve distilled all this intelligence and insights into my third business, Pathways Global and The Business Growth Pathway™, a digital platform that delivers dynamic, data-led mentor style insights and a clear blueprint for scalable growth. We are changing the way the world grows businesses, one business at a time.
I’m also a business growth consultant and executive coach which includes our incubator model – I work with a small group of clients who are in fast growth mode and where together we’ve built them an exit strategy and I have skin in the game in their success. I’m an active speaker and blogger.
After publishing Built to Grow I got the writing bug and published my second book, RISE: Start living the life you were meant to lead, and I know I definitely have a third in me which is already planned!
Outside of work my wife and two children generally keep me busy! I love playing a round of golf (when time permits) plus getting my trainers on and going for a run. I feel it clears my head and gives me space to think.
You might ask, how do you fit it all in?
I have a great team around me and an Executive Assistant who keeps me on track. But the key for me is I’m passionate about making a difference and helping people grow their business and unlock their real potential. I simply love what I do – helping others create more life – more freedom – more choices!
Thanks for reading my story.
If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with me on Facebook or LinkedIn
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